March 1, 2016

How to Care for Your Shelf Clock

A Place for Your Clock

Your shelf (or mantel) clock should be located in a place in your home that is free of extremes in temperature or humidity. For this reason, do not set your clock above or beside a fireplace, stove, or other source of home heating. Do not place the clock where it will be subjected to direct sunlight or drafts.

Leveling the Clock

In order for you clock to continue to run, it must be level.  Make sure that the surface on which your clock sets is level.  You may need to raise one side of the clock with thin cardboard to achieve this.  A small spirit level (or bubble level) will help with this task.

Hanging the Pendulum

After your clock is in a safe and level location, the pendulum may be installed. Open the case a look for a rod in the center of the clock with a hook at the bottom end. Hang the pendulum on this hook.

Remove the pendulum before moving the clock to another location. The pendulum bob is heavy and can damage the clock if allowed to swing freely.

Winding the Clock

Depending upon whether your clock is spring or weight driven, use the following instructions that are appropriate to your clock.

  • Key wound - The direction in which to turn its mainspring arbors will depend upon your clock. You will hear clicking when you are turning it in the correct direction. Do not attempt to force the key as this will damage your clock.
  • Spring driven - Unlike a watch, a spring-driven clock can be wound without fear of overwinding. Wind each arbor until the key stops.
  • Weight driven - Slow down as the weight approaches the top. As soon as you hear the weight bump against the top, STOP. Further winding will jam the weight and put tension on the clock that will prohibit it from running. Under no condition attempt to pull the weight down. This can severely damage to your clock. Get a clockmaker to lower the weight for you.

Setting the Time

Rotate the minute hand clockwise until you arrive at the current time. Each time the clock begins to chime, pause until the chiming stops. Continued turning of the minute hand while the clock is chiming will put the chime out of synchronization with the time of the clock.

If your clock chimes on the quarter hour, do not reverse the minute hand past the 3, 6, 9, or 12 hour markers on the dial.  If it chimes on the half hour, do not try to reverse the minute hand past the 6 or 12.  If it only chimes on the hour, do not try to push the minute hand backwards past the 12.  As soon as you feel resistance in turning the minute hand backwards, STOP. Forcing the minute hand backwards can damage your clock.

Starting the Clock

After the clock is wound and the time is set, you can start the clock by putting the pendulum in motion. This is done by giving the pendulum a small push to one side.  For a smaller clock with no front door, you may find it easier to pick up one end of the clock to give the pendulum a small swing. Make sure this action is smooth and gentle.

Adjusting for Accurate Timekeeping

After you have started your clock, you may discover that it is running too fast or slow. You can improve the accuracy of your clock by following this procedure: After a week’s time (or sooner if the clock is gaining or losing time rapidly), compare its time with that of an accurate time source. This source may be an electric clock or a quartz watch. If your clock’s incorrect you may adjust its speed using one of the following appropriate methods.

  • Using the key for the speed arbor, turn the arbor toward the “F” is the clock is running slow or toward the “S” if the clock is running too fast.
  • Turn the knurled wheel on the pendulum to the left if the clock is running to fast or to the right if the clock is running too slow.

Reset the hands to the correct time and let the clock run for another week without further correction. As the clock’s time becomes more accurate, your adjustments will become smaller. Each time you make an adjustment, make a note of it (1/4 turn, 1/2 turn, 1mm, etc.). Keeping track of your changes will help you achieve the best accuracy your clock can provide.

Don’t expect your mechanical clock to be as accurate as a quartz watch. If your clock is accurate within two minutes for a week, you have a well regulated clock. Simply nudge the minute hand to the correct time when needed or when you wind the clock.

Increasing Your Clock’s Lifespan

Like any mechanical device, your clock will need periodic maintenance. After fives years, the oil will be oxidized and dirty and will no longer protect the clock’s metal parts. Just like on your car, replacing oil is a lot cheaper than replacing parts. Unlike your car, with proper maintenance your clock can easily provide good service to many generations.

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